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Why Women Hunt | Wild River Press

The Landmark New Book

Why Women Hunt

Why Women Hunt | Wild River Press

by K. J. Houtman

Foreword by Brenda Valentine

Publication June 2019
NOW Accepting Orders.

It may surprise many to learn that this fall more than 1 million females over age 16 will enthusiastically take to America’s woods and waters to ethically harvest wild game. And the pheasants and ducks and deer they bring home are in most places across the American landscape more abundant than since frontier times.

According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 10.3 million American males hunted in 2016, a number that has been steadily declining in recent decades as traditional wildlife-sustaining habitat is obliterated by strip malls and tract housing. Fewer distracted suburban young men are hunting. However, according to the exhaustive survey, 1.1 million women hunted in 2016—and their participation is statistically holding steady.

Consequently, these dedicated outdoor women—of all ages, professions, education and cultural backgrounds—make up an increasing proportion of licensed American hunters.

Why Women Hunt by author and hunter K. J. Houtman of Minnesota, the first book of its kind, is an intimate look at the lives of 18 individual female hunters across the country, Alabama to Alaska. Their diverse personal stories explore what motivates them to connect, spiritually and physically, with the natural world in one of humankind’s most ancient food-gathering rituals.

There is a real story here.



My favorite sound in the woods or on a hunt
“Too easy—the gobble of a turkey. They do sound so different, though, depending on where you are. Here in Alabama, the sound bounces off the pines and resonates. But in Florida or Nebraska, a turkey sounds so different out in the open. No matter what, the gobble of a tom will always make the hair on the nape of my neck raise straight up.”



Who I wish knew and respected my hunting world better
“I just wish non-hunters understood hunting better, but the burden is on us to help them understand. I wish they’d take a hunter education class, even if they weren’t going to hunt. Sometimes we don’t get anything after a long day. It’s not always easy and it is never guaranteed. Some people don’t know and some have a misconception fostered from watching hunting TV shows. We need to demonstrate how we achieve healthy wildlife herds and how we affect animals in a positive way through hunting.”



The person who would be the most surprised about the life I lead now “My dad. He passed away three years ago when I first started hunting. He thought it was cool, but he thought I’d never be able to do it. I’d like him to see me now. The woman he knew was the feminine designer and he probably thought I was too soft or that I’d be grossed out and hunting was just for men. It would be fun. I think he’d be surprised.”



My favorite sound on a hunt
“The wingbeats of any bird. It’s like a secret on the wind.” My favorite smell in the woods “I like the smell of pine needles, wet earth. I love the smell of alpine flowers, especially in the fall when the sun is sort of burning them. There’s a sort of offering in the air.”



The biggest obstacle for women getting started in hunting
“For women or men, if you didn’t grow up in a family that hunts, it is really hard to just pick it up one day. You’ve got to have someone show you the ropes, to give you a place. I guess that’s a lack of mentorship. Everyone needs help getting started, and if you weren’t raised in that environment it can be a challenge to find that person.”



The biggest obstacle
“Finding the right mentor and then having the confidence to do it. Most women who want to do something new seek an education on it, almost to a fault. Sometimes we encounter unfortunate mentoring, where someone hands her a 12-gauge and she doesn’t know how to hold it. That woman won’t shoot it ever again. Empowering and educating any new hunter is important. She needs to know how to handle the gun, how the safety works. Be educated. If your kid finds a gun she needs to know: guns exist! They’re not a fairytale. It’s like saying you don’t believe in cars. Tell her ‘don’t touch that,’ sure, but a child might go to a neighbor’s house and a handgun is right there. Kids are inquisitive. These are obstacles for women and women raising kids as single mothers who are afraid to try or find the right people to show them. The more opportunity young men and women have to shoot and learn about hunting is important.”



My biggest disappointment in today’s hunting culture
“A lot of pressure on getting the biggest and best deer out there—or any animal, not just a deer. It seems score matters more than the experience. I wish the time spent outdoors and the experience was the most important; more about the bonding and family and not about score or beard length or whatever. Being a first-time mother there’s so much pressure about this or that, like breast- or bottle-fed, cloth or disposable diapers. It doesn’t make you less of a hunter if you take a spike buck. We should not be tearing each other down. If you need to feed your baby formula your baby is getting nourished. I can see the parallel and the correlation: less judgment.”



Hunting for meat or trophy or the experience
“Meat, for me, but that is probably because of my newbie status. In the process of the hunt for meat I get ‘moments’ in solitude where I discover something about God, or myself, or overcome something. I’m amazed at the quality of my prayer life while in the woods. If while hunting with my husband, we have a wonderful weekend together—hooray! But what pushes me out there is the provision for the table, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I can afford to purchase whatever meat I want to at the store. Fundamental to who I am, as a wife, mother and ‘Oma’ to my grandkids, I like to cook for people. It’s one of the main ways I show others I care. Having healthy, organic meat to offer is what drives me outdoors. And there is no greater gift than the gift of game meat or fish. What a friend that is. I like being a part of the tribe.”



My favorite type of hunting
“Grouse hunting because of the beauty being in the woods with working dogs. The dogs are so happy it makes me happy.” My favorite sound in the woods “The jingle of a dog’s bell as it’s coming back—usually with a bird in its mouth or a big smile.”



The person I wish knew and respected my hunting world better
“Anyone who is anti-hunting. I want them to understand the conservation and camaraderie better; to understand what we contribute. We’re not about the thrill of the kill—it is the thrill of the adventure. At the end of the day it is the people we enjoy spending time with and nature itself. Harvesting game for the table is just a bonus.”



My favorite smell in the woods
“It is the smell of fresh soil when it has just rained. It’s there every morning because of the dew. That smell when I get my boots dirty and it makes me say, ‘Ah—we’re away from people.’ For me it is the process where I get away from everyday life.”



Conquering fear of hunting
“Conquer fear. And meet fear head-on—that’s how you do it. You have it, you meet it head on and you conquer it. And then it is, what fear? I know I’ll make mistakes and so I don’t worry about it, ever. I have no fear of being foolish. Shit happens. It is healthy to fear making a bad shot because it will make you practice more. Everything else let it go. Mistakes are okay.”



My favorite sound on a hunt
“The flush of a bird is unlike anything—it doesn’t matter which bird it is. As the wings come up through the grass or the trees it sends you into shock. I enjoy walking and hearing my own footsteps, especially in the early mornings. Sitting on a cliff ledge in Colorado, I could hear the trickle of water as the sun was coming up. It was awe-inspiring. You’re here, alive and alone. It’s amazing.”



For women to get started hunting
“Read and glean as much information as possible to grow in knowledge. Some women might benefit from a mentor, like I had in my dad—someone who sets them up for success. Otherwise, they’ll walk into a store and ask about a bow and a clerk will hand them a pink bow with a zebra stripe. Hey, it happened to me! I’ve been so patronized in stores. Someone who doesn’t know what she wants or needs would be set up for failure. Think about a mentor—male or female—and be brave. Don’t back down.”



The biggest obstacle for women
“It’s their own mindset. I’ve always told would-be hunters that being a woman is no handicap unless they allow it to be. They shackle themselves sometimes over-thinking. They need to realize hunting will give them strength and confidence in other areas of their life and they’ll be empowered beyond what they can imagine. Take that first step and just do it. Their own mindset is their biggest obstacle. Most women don’t realize their capabilities. They hold themselves back. That’s a greater obstacle. Some gals just go hunting and teach themselves. Don’t wait for someone to take you. There’s public land and places to learn to shoot, books and educational sources everywhere you look. If you think you want to go hunting, find a mentor to help you overcome the things you think you can’t do. You can do them.”



My favorite type of hunting
“Archery, because I get up close and I stay in the moment. Whatever season it is, I love it. There’s nothing like a turkey blind—they can work me up like nothing else. I’ve shot a bear with a bow. I love the adventure part of it, the ruggedness. Maybe that’s a bit of a surprise coming from a hairstylist—people who know me from the salon are often surprised, but I think it gives us a chance to be multidimensional. It sure fulfills my connection with the earth. My dad felt it with farming and my pull has been the animals and the spirituality of hunting—the spirituality of nature and being outdoors.”



I wish they knew and respected my hunting world
“Every millennial and every hipster—every 20-something who watches a PETA video and thinks every hunter is Satan incarnate—they’re losing touch with the forest. They rage about nuggets and burgers, but they don’t understand animals and where they come from. They don’t understand. There’s so much chaos with guns and they don’t understand their second amendment rights. They don’t understand guns and they don’t understand how food works. Not everyone, of course, but too often. They ask, ‘Why would you want to kill an animal?’ It’s supply and demand. You’re eating an animal and your demand supplied that. I wish my friends understood animals and population control. True hunters aren’t poachers. Poachers aren’t hunters—they are criminals.”

From the Foreword

I have always believed hunters possess a special gift similar to musicians, artists and others with unique talents. This gift knows no age, gender, color or economic boundary—not everyone possesses the drive, instincts, patience and toughness required to be a consistently successful hunter. Thank goodness that, throughout history, there have been women who excelled in providing food for their families as well as passing the fundamentals of hunting to the next generation.

In this important new book, K. J. Houtman pries deep into the minds of a cross-section of women who hunt, searching for what inspires mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters to rise early, brave the harshest conditions and sometimes go alone to dangerous or remote places. What lure is so powerful to push women beyond their comfort zone to face fears head-on and accomplish feats they never imagined? Some never knew they would enjoy it until they participated the first time. . .

This influx of women hunters arrived at a prime time when hunting is misunderstood, misrepresented and threatened by a small percentage of non-hunters who vocalize anti-hunting sentiment. Could it be that perhaps the very group that had been shunned for so long might be the key to protecting the precious lifestyle enjoyed by so many?

Go with K. J. Houtman as she journeys across America, gathering stories and asking questions to discover the motivations behind Why Women Hunt.

“The First Lady of Hunting”

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